Category: Domestic Legal Issues

European small claims

I recently wrote about the small claims procedure in the Irish District Court. Of course, this procedure might be of no use to the Dan Brown fan buying his latest oeuvre online from England or the oenophile stocking up on crates of touraine while on holiday in France.

Not to worry, Regulation 861/2007 established a European Small Claims Procedure applicable to all EU Member States (except Denmark) which will be of use to a lot of such people. A guide to using the procedure has been published in the UK (via Out Law) and the European Commission has a simple guide, available here.

Note: Anyone buying goods or services online as a consumer should familiarise themselves with their rights (including to a cooling off period during which an order can be cancelled). If the vendor does not properly inform you of your rights, the law is usually on your side in the event of a problem.

The Citizens Information website has the relevant information here.

Citizens Information

The Citizens Information website is a tremendous and under-appreciated source of general information for everyone. In does-what-it-says-on-the-tin fashion, the site sets out, in clear language, information on legal rights, social welfare entitlements; essentially everything concerning the interaction between citizens and State. The site is regularly updated and highlights topical information on its homepage, including where to go for details of the Lisbon Treaty or the report of the Commission on Taxation. Many of its most timely articles relate to current economic difficulties and a mircrosite has been launched for the recently-unemployed.

Another piece of information recently highlighted which is timely: how can a consumer terminate a hire purchase agreement?

“A consumer (the hirer) can terminate the hire purchase agreement at any time by giving notice in writing to the owner of the goods (the finance house). Consumers should be aware that breaking a hire purchase contract before its normal end date usually involves penalties. The consumer can either:

  • pay half the amount of the total hire purchase price (if the total of instalments already paid have not reached that amount) and return the goods to the owner. If the goods in question are damaged in any way, the consumer will be liable to pay for any damage caused. The finance house may issue a notice of costs, but consumers should try to get their own estimate in such cases.
  • buy the goods earlier than planned. The consumer can own the goods by paying the difference between the amount already paid and the total hire purchase price. In such cases, there is usually a reduction on the overall amount due as the loan is being paid off earlier than planned. This reduction is calculated using a recognised formula for early loan repayments, however, the amount of any reduction is relatively small.”

Does your computer need a TV licence?

Probably, if you use a TV tuner (like this one).

According to the Broadcasting Act 2009, a television is:

“any electronic apparatus capable of receiving and exhibiting television broadcasting services broadcast for general reception (whether or not its use for that purpose is dependent on the use of anything else in conjunction with it) and any software or assembly comprising such apparatus and other apparatus”.

So the door was left open for the licensing of devices which are not televisions in the traditional sense. Section 142 of the Act contains the requirement for TV licences but provides that the Minister for Communications can exempt certain devices from the obligation to have a TV licence.

The Minister did so over the summer months by way of  the Television Licence (Exemption of Classes of Television Set) Order 2009. The Order exempts:

  1. portable devices with a display size of not more than 160 cm² capable of exhibiting television services (this covers mobile phones, PDAs, etc.); and
  2. other devices which can access television or television-like services but only where they are available publicly on the internet (and not, for example, by means of analogue or digital broadcast, IPTV, etc).

So, it appears that a PC/laptop with a display in excess of 160² and with a television tuner card requires a TV licence. The maximum penalty for not having a TV licence if one is required is €1,000 [corrected] for the first offence.